Viet Cong Chooks
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viet cong chooks

It was our first TAOR patrol and we wondered what was in store for us. As I looked around at our section of blokes, I noticed that the only one of us with any experience was Mick. He was treating it like any other day, the rest of us weren't so sure. As we were preparing to leave the safety of Nui Dat, I packed my camera and extra mags for the M16, just in case. We were a man or two short for some reason as we walked through the 'Pearly Gates' into the unknown.

Most of the day had passed without incident, except for the kids that were following us. They scored a few chocolate bars and left us alone when they realised there was no more to be had. As the day progressed, we seemed to be forever walking through clumps of bamboo, the likes of which I'd never seen before. We walked until very late afternoon when Mick called a halt and we set ourselves up for a night harbour.

A couple of sentries were posted and I made up a feed from my ration pack. Boiled rice with some chicken soup powder, broken Sao like biscuits with a pinch of curry powder and a squeeze of condensed milk from a tube. With a bit of imagination it tasted like sweet and sour chicken.

There was no way I was going to sleep. I'd take my turn on sentry when the time came, but I was not going to close my eyes 'out here' for anything. It was going to be a long few hours to midnight and even longer to daylight.

At around 11:00pm I heard a noise out in front of me and my mate, who was only a few yards away. With hearts pounding we sent a whispered message back to Mick. He crawls out to our position and listens for 10-15 minutes and reckons it was all in our heads and goes back to the radio.

Of course, the noise started again as soon as Mick left us, only this time it sounded like, maybe a full platoon of NVA. My mate spoke softly, but urgently and said, "what do you reckon"? and he went on to say, "I thought you said they wouldn't send us out into a VC infested area on our first patrol"?

"I'm stuffed if I know, except we can't just do nothing, we'll be killed". By now we were feeding on one another's very alert minds. Although the night was as black as the ace of spades I was convinced that I could see 'them' out front.

"Let's shoot together" I said. "If we're proven to be wrong in the cool light of day, then I'd prefer that, than waking up dead in the morning, You know what I mean?" We counted to three and opened fire. We sprayed a full mag each at the noise that we could almost see.

Mick's yelling out "what the bloody hell's going on"? No need for whispered tones now as we must have woken everyone for miles around.

My mate suggested to Mick that he call in the artillery. "Everyone ok"? calls out Mick. We all were. Mick gets on the radio and contacts base. They ask "any return fire"? "No" says Mick sounding a little embarrassed. "Well, we think you can go back to sleep boys," says the base wallah.

"Alright for them" I said to my mate. "we could have been killed a while ago", I reckon in the morning we'll find at least six 'Charlies' out there, maybe even a few more than that".

At dawn the reality was very different, about 30 metres to our front we discovered that we'd brassed up three chooks. They sure as hell didn't sound like chooks at midnight. At around 8:00am our patrol had been cut short and we'd been called back to Nui Dat.

Mick says "I can't wait to tell the rest of the blokes at the 'Hop Inn' tonight". "Couldn't you at least say they were Viet Cong Chooks?" asks my mate, "how about if we take them back and give them to the cook"?

"What about lead poisoning"? says Mick. "Maybe we could give them to Charlie Company, they'll eat just about anything".

"Something you ought to know Mick", I said. "What's that?" he asks.

"When we stopped for a brew mid afternoon yesterday, I took a photo of you" I replied. "So?" he said.

I warned him, "Well you were having a leak at the time".

"Not that there's much to show, but I'm getting a few copies blown up. One for above the bar at the 'Hop Inn' and another for your 'Daily Rag' back home, if you dare tell anyone what happened out here last night".

It was the first time I ever felt that I'd got the last word in with Mick.

 

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